Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two diminutive wildflowers

with 29 comments

Austin is home to several species of verbena. The often overlooked little one shown above is Verbena canescens, known as gray vervain (from verveine, the Old French development of Latin verbēna). Each flower is no more than a quarter of an inch (6mm) across.

On the same April 1st outing along Yaupon Dr. in my extended neighborhood I found some Drummond‘s skullcap, Scutellaria drummondii, which you see below. Both plants are fuzzy and produce flowers of a similar color, though not shape, given that they’re in different botanical families. Today is only the second time that each wildflower has appeared here.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 10, 2018 at 4:30 AM

29 Responses

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  1. The blossoms may be tiny, but they’re a beautiful color

    Robert Parker

    April 10, 2018 at 5:09 AM

    • I especially like the skullcap’s color, which conveniently dots the flowers’ prominent white regions.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 10, 2018 at 7:00 AM

  2. Sweet. I love to try to learn the names. Thanks.

    Sherry Felix

    April 10, 2018 at 5:53 AM

  3. Nice images, you get all the necessary details while keeping the plant very alive looking, if that makes sense. I used to love finding Blue vervain (V. hastata) in fields north of NYC in the summer. Not a common flower, which made it more special. There should be Skullcaps in that area too, I think, but I don’t remember seeing them. Blue flowers are always a draw!


    April 10, 2018 at 1:03 PM

    • For someone who goes by “bluebrightly” I understand the appeal of that color. I’ve had intermittent discussions here of color perception because many of our local wildflowers with blue in their name appear violet or purple to me, as is the case with the two in this post. Likewise for Verbena hastata, now that I’ve looked it up. Regardless of the name and perceived color, I empathize with you about finding an uncommon flower and having it feel special because of its rarity.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 10, 2018 at 8:15 PM

  4. Very pretty blossoms!


    April 10, 2018 at 9:47 PM

  5. The spacing of the flowers on the gray vervain is lovely. I’ve never found that one, so it’s a pleasure to see it here.

    On the other hand, I’m sure I have a photo of the Drummond’s skullcap, if I ever can find it. I’m well past the point of needing a better way to organize my photos so I can find them by specific epithet as well as by location or season. The skullcap reminds me of lyreleaf sage, because of the way the flowers emerge from the receptacle. After the bloom, does the receptacle remain, and retain some of the color it shows here? I think on the sage the after-bloom structure’s as neat as the flowers.


    April 11, 2018 at 6:13 AM

    • The BONAP map for Verbena canescens shows it in counties near you, so you might well come across it, especially now that you’re aware of it:

      For some species I’ve learned what becomes of the flowers after they fade. With skullcap, I’m afraid I don’t know. It’s in the same botanical family as sage.

      A lot of photographers use Adobe Lightroom to keep track of their photographs. The downside is that you’re then tied forever to a $10 monthly subscription fee. On the plus side, Photoshop is included in the fee.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 11, 2018 at 8:48 AM

      • As it happens, I have Lightroom on my computer, so if I were to apply myself, I could learn to use it. I even have a book I purchased to help me along in the process. All that’s missing is the commitment.

        It did occur to me today that I may be the last person on the planet not to have figured out that the name Lightroom probably was chosen as a sly reference to photographic darkrooms.


        April 12, 2018 at 9:45 PM

        • Do you have an older, fully purchased version of Lightroom, from the time before Adobe switched to a subscription model? It should still work and be suitable for your purposes. Do you also have a comparable version of Photoshop?

          We could say a light bulb got turned on for you when you realized the parallel between Lightroom and darkroom.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 12, 2018 at 10:44 PM

  6. Texas seems to have many blue wildflowers. We have a few, particularly lupines, but not enough for blue to be a prominent color. I suppose our ceanothus are blue. I really wish I could have studied the flora in Oklahoma more while I was there. You know, I never saw Texas by daylight. We came and left through there at night. Although, night time is a nice time to see North Texas. Some would say that North Texas looks best when it can not be seen; but I really thought that the stars at night are big and bright! I had never seen the sky like that, not even in the Mojave Desert.


    April 11, 2018 at 10:09 PM

    • Texas has a bunch of wildflowers with blue in their name, but my eyes and brain don’t see most of them as blue. Similarly, the two shown here don’t appear blue to me, but rather violet or purple.

      I’m surprised that your nighttime experience in crossing northern Texas gave you a better view of the sky than you got in the Mojave Desert. You were fortunate. Parts of western Texas are known for clear night skies; that’s why the McDonald Observatory got built where it did:


      Nighttime views aside, it sounds like you’re due for some traipsing through Texas in the daytime with a mind to botanizing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 11, 2018 at 10:56 PM

      • Well, yes. I really want to come back to Oklahoma in particular; but I also want to go to both Kansas and Texas as well. I do not know my way around Texas, and do not even know what parts of it I would prefer to see, although I do not think I am all that interested in the Gulf Coast part of it that so many people prefer. The parts that I do not hear much about seem to be more interesting.


        April 11, 2018 at 11:33 PM

        • Few people have heard about Guadalupe Mountains National Park in west Texas, on the south side of the New Mexico Border:


          The western part of the state, which is generally the most scenic part, also includes Texas’s other national park, the much better known Big Bend.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 12, 2018 at 6:19 AM

          • For someone who has only driven across the very north of Texas at night, the rest of it is all fascinating. I love California, and could not see all of it in a lifetime. I love Oklahoma too, and found that I can see what most of it looks like in the first few minutes. But there is some allure of the unknown. Some of my favorite parts of California are the empty parts of the Mojave Desert. It can be as fascinating as Los Angeles or Tahoe. It is just a matter of what one is looking for, or not looking for.


            April 12, 2018 at 10:13 PM

            • You’re right about spending a lifetime seeing California. It’s hard to beat that state for scenery. I was happy to spend a week there in 2016 for the first time in 20 years. Naturally I came away with a slew of photographs, some of which I showed here:


              Steve Schwartzman

              April 12, 2018 at 11:03 PM

              • How funny to see it in pictures. I live there, between the Santa Clara Valley (where my hometown of Los Gatos is) and Santa Cruz. Redwoods are everywhere. Morro Rock was the view from the last home I lived in while in college. It is nice to see pictures of the desert. Most people who like the redwood forests dislike the desert, and would not be interested in getting pictures of it. I think that is why it intrigues me. Even though I have always lived relatively close to it, I have seen little of it.


                April 12, 2018 at 11:33 PM

                • Call me an equal-opportunity admirer: for me, one of the advantages of living in California would be the chance to go to all the different environments the state offers. In the mid-1990s I came close to getting a teaching job in California. I expect my life would be rather different now if I’d gotten it.

                  Yesterday I heard about a proposal to split California into three states:


                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 13, 2018 at 7:30 AM

                • The entertainment industry is so prominent in Los Angeles, and had been prominent in Niles before moving south, for that reason. There are so many different regions to film within in minimal proximity to each other. California is not lacking much in regard to scenery.
                  There has been talk about splitting California into two or three states for a long time, and a bit of talk about the State of Jefferson at the western border of California and Oregon. Southern California still wants cheap water though. I think that Los Angeles should be its own third world country.


                  April 13, 2018 at 9:59 PM

                • In old movies I’ve often seen a location that’s supposed to be somewhere exotic, and I assume I’m really seeing someplace in California.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 14, 2018 at 7:49 AM

                • Oh yes. Franklin Canon Park above Beverly Hills hosts a tour of many sites that were used for various movies and television shows. Within a short distance, one can visit Little House on the Prairie, Dukes of Hazard, Big Valley, Bonanza, the Blob, a Simon and Garfunkle album, and all sorts of far away planets from Star Trek. Harold and Maude was filmed up here, and I remember that the Jaguar that was driven off of the cliff in Montara was left upside down on the beach where it remained visible until I was in high school. If you happen to see the trailer for the remake of ‘the Birds’, part of it was filmed in my colleague Brent’s back yard.


                  April 14, 2018 at 10:45 AM

  7. Scutellarias and Vervains are two of my favorites to come across.


    May 1, 2018 at 10:10 AM

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